I wanted 5 min's peace and quiet at the computer the other day to pay bills etc and needed to occupy busy hands so that they didnt get up to mischief.
I had seen paper tapestry somewhere on a blog sorry I cant remember where to be able to tag them (most of my time at the computer I am breastfeeding so trawl around all over the place then forget where I have been= blame it on the hormones)
So I cut up a big piece of card paper into 4 smaller pieces to make it easy for little hands to hold, then again to make it easy I punched lots of holes with a pen (paper clip or anything else same size will do.) For older children I would just let them push the needle through the paper.
I used a Tapestry needle as they are bluntish and thick and embroidery cotton,
I did it double and tied a knot in the end.
I then showed Dylan how to put the needle through the hole and pull the thread and left him to it at my feet. He gave a funny giggle that he does when he is excited and away he went.
I didnt expect him to get it straight away and was impressed that he quickly sewed up the card and demanded another one and which colour cotton he wanted.
These could be pre-prepared and put into sandwich bags for those 'I need you occupied" occasions. it would even fit in your handbag. like when in a meeting with the bank manager you could just whip one out to keep them quiet , still & occupied. Or on a car trip :)
To further expand on the idea you could use some mesh and sew through the holes, you could use ribbon or for younger children you could give them a shoelace with the firm end. etc.